Islip of Westminster

 In answer to an enquiry about yesterday's blog content, and in view of the great events happening in Westminster Abbey this day, I though the Wikipedia content below would interest some ...

Islip was doubtless a member of the family which rose to ecclesiastical importance in the person of Archbishop Simon Islip. John entered the monastery of Westminster about 1480, and showed his administrative capacity in minor offices, till in 1498 he was elected prior, and on 27 October 1500 abbot of Westminster. .... Islip had next to advise Henry VII in his plan for removing the old lady chapel of the abbey church and the erection instead of the chapel which still bears Henry VII's name. The old building was pulled down, and on 24 January 1503 Islip laid the foundation-stone of the new structure. The indentures between the king and Abbot Islip relating to the foundation of Henry VII's chantry and the regulation of its services are in the Harleian MS. 1498. They are splendidly engrossed, and have two initial letters which represent the king giving the document to Islip and the monks who kneel before him. The face of Islip is so strongly marked that it seems to be a real portrait.[2]
Islip seems to have discharged carefully the duties of his office.... His capacity for business led Henry VIII to appoint him a member of the privy council, probably on his departure to France in 1513 ...  In 1527 Islip, as president of the English Benedictines, issued a commission to the Abbot of Gloucester for the visitation of the abbey of Malmesbury, where there had been a rebellion of the monks against their abbot.[2]

This peaceful discharge of ordinary duties was disturbed for Islip, as for most other Englishmen of high position, by the proceedings for the king's divorce. In July 1529 Islip was joined with Burbank and others for the purpose of searching among the royal papers for documents to present to the legatine court of Wolsey and Campeggio. In 1530 Islip was one of those who signed a letter to the pope in favour of the king's divorce, and in July 1531 Henry VIII suggested to the pope that Islip, whom he calls ‘a good old father’, should be joined as an assessor to Archbishop Warham for the purpose of trying the cause in England. ... 

Islip died peaceably on 12 May 1532, and was buried in the abbey with extraordinary splendour.[2]

... But the chief reason why Islip's name is remembered is his buildings at Westminster Abbey. He raised the western tower as far as the level of the roof, repaired much of the church, especially the buttresses, filled the niches with statues, and designed a central tower, which he did not proceed with because he found the pillars too weak to bear the weight. He built many apartments in the abbot's house, and a gallery overlooking the nave on the south side. Moreover, he built for himself the little mortuary chapel which still bears his name, and is adorned by his rebus, a boy falling from a tree, with the legend ‘I slip.’ The paintings in the chapel have disappeared, and only the table of his tomb remains. Islip's fame as a custodian of the fabric of the abbey long remained, and his example was held as a model by Williams when he was dean of Westminster.[2]

My father once told me that his grandfather had  'wasted the family fortune' in trying to prove the direct lineage back to Abbott John Islip, who had left an even (very much) larger fortune unclaimed in the English Chancery. He also told me that his grandfather's endeavours had foundered on one simple fact; Roman Catholic Abbots were supposed to be (although by no means were always) celibate! 

By the way, it seems that one of the Abbot's immediate descendants went to America not long after the Pilgrim Fathers, there to found the town and the river called Islip in New York State.

So that's the history lesson on this signal day. When you see inside that fabulous construction you'll know more than most about it.

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